Centenary of Ludlow Massacre

The Ludlow Massacre, April 20th 1914.

To commemorate the centenary of the Ludlow Massacre Professor Jim Green of Massachusetts University will discuss the implications of this watershed event in American history at the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival which takes place at the Firkin Crane on Thursday evening 31st July.

Professor Green is the author of “Crime against Memory at Ludlow”, Labor: Studies of Working Class History in the Americas Vol 1 No 1 (Spring 2004). 

Armed agents of the Baldwin-Felts detective agency in their "Death Special" armoured car

Armed agents of the Baldwin-Felts detective agency in their “Death Special” armoured car

During the infamous and bitter Colorado mining strikes of 1913/14, Mother Jones had been imprisoned several times on the orders of General John Chase and Governor Elias Ammons. She had repeatedly entered the State to support the striking miners and had been imprisoned without trial or charge for almost three months. Mother Jones had become a lightning rod of agitation in Southern Colorado and following the threat of an order of habeas corpus order being made to Colorado’s Supreme Court, she was finally released in mid-April 1914. So weakened was this 76 year old woman after languishing in the rat infested Walsenburg Courthouse Jail that she left the State to recover.

The strike which was about union recognition, safety issues and wages continued and the miners’ camp at Ludlow, some 20km north west of Trinidad, which had been surrounded for several weeks by the Colorado National Guard and a private army of mine company hired thugs, began to fear the worst. With Mother Jones gone for the moment and with her the media presence, the mine owners felt they had a licence to sort out the miners.

As the miners had been evicted from their company houses at the beginning of the strike and lived in union tent camps many of them had dug caves underneath the tents to try and protect their families from the incoming bullets fired by these thugs who operated with impunity.

On Sunday April 19th the miners and their families gathered to celebrate Easter and the festivities continued all day. The following morning bullets began to pour into the camp and while the miners fought back they soon ran out of ammunition due to the prolonged nature of the attack. Many families fled to the pits to escape. Later that evening the guards and hired thugs invaded the camp itself and set fire to many tents and wrecked the community facilities. The courageous miners’ leader Louis Tikas was murdered by a Lieutenant Karl Linderfelt, whose later punishment was a mild reprimand.

The following morning, the full extent of the massacre unfolded, in one pit, the bodies of two woman and eleven children were uncovered, in all a total of 19 miners and their families lay dead.

The miners across southern Colorado revolted and as guerrilla warfare erupted, dozens died in what was the largest civil insurrection in the United States since the Civil War. President Woodrow Wilson ordered in the US Army to restore an uneasy peace.

Easter Sunday 2014 is the centenary of the infamous Ludlow Massacre, whose very name and slogan “Remember Ludlow” still resonates across the history of labour and union struggles. The original Ludlow monument erected in 1916 which included a man, a woman and a child representing a mining family was badly damaged in 2003 by anti-union vandals, it has since been repaired. The site of the original Tent Colony is now a US National Historic Landmark.

“I thank God for the Mine Workers Union and then I hung my head and cried”

Woody Guthrie from his 1941 ballad, “Ludlow Massacre”.

Mother Jones joins Irish American Hall of Fame

Mother Jones inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame
ImageMJ Hall of Fame 1

Mother Jones was inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 22, 2014. ILHS President Larry Spivack and Margaret Fulkerson proudly accepted the award for her. The Irish Galway Crystal vase will be placed in her exhibit at the Irish American Heritage Center.

Mother Jones inducted into Irish American Hall of Fame

Induction of Mother Jones to the Irish American Heritage Center Hall of Fame.

On behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee which organises the annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in the Irish city of the birthplace of Mary Harris, I wish to congratulate the Irish American Heritage Center on selecting Mother Jones for induction to Irish American Heritage Center Hall of Fame.

Irish American Hall of Fame award

Irish American Hall of Fame award

Mary Harris was born in this city of Cork in 1837 and was baptised at the North Cathedral on 1st August in that year. As a young girl she witnessed and experienced appalling scenes of poverty hunger and disease in the streets and lanes of Cork city culminating in the deaths of many thousands in the Great Hunger of the Irish Famine from 1846 to 1848.

Like millions of other Irish, she and her family emigrated from Ireland to find a new and better life in the New World. In spite of the tragedy of losing her entire family in Memphis and later her business in the Chicago fire, she began again her new life working to protect the poor and oppressed, to oppose child labour and to defend American workers’ rights at an age when many people simply opt for a quiet life.

Her indomitable courage, her resilience, her fiery oratory and her rage against the prevailing system and working conditions which left millions of miners and other workers living in poverty and exploitation encapsulate all that is good, admired and valued in community and society.

Her robust defense of workers and their families, many of whom were Irish immigrants who had already fled similar living conditions in Ireland represents the true rebel spirit of the Irish Nation and Diaspora.

Mary Harris Jones was a truly inspirational figure, as an elderly woman operating in a male working world she stood out as an extraordinary woman, revered as a “Mother” by countless thousands of miners and marked out as “the most dangerous woman in America” by others, her legacy as a hell raiser remains as a source of pride to many.

In her native city of “Rebel Cork”, the growing reputation of Mary Harris is a source of immense hope and solidarity for Cork people. This is especially relevant now as our young people are again emigrating and working families are struggling for decent lives in Ireland.

Real figures from history such as Mary Harris, who sought a “grander civilisation” demonstrate that we too must now embrace the incredible compassionate and activist spirit of Mother Jones to build our country based on the principles of fairness, justice, freedom and equality as espoused by this courageous woman.

For too long Mother Jones has remained in the margins of consciousness, a victim of the lesser explored recesses of history. She is at last emerging from these shadows in both Ireland and America as new generations of young people seek her relevance and wonder at her powerful message to “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”

The Cork Mother Jones Committee salutes the Irish American Heritage Society for your splendid foresight in selecting this proud Cork woman for inclusion in the Irish American Hall of Fame.

We take immense pleasure that you have chosen to honour Mary Harris Jones in this magnificent manner and we trust that her unique fighting spirit will once again take its rightful place and permanent place as a symbol of human courage in adversity and as a practical reminder of the solid American and Irish bonds which exist among working people.

Sincerely yours in solidarity,

Gerard O’Mahony,
Coordinator, the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival,
Cork Mother Jones Committee.

Dave Hopper and the Durham Miner’s Gala

 

photo DaveHopper

Dave Hopper

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival is proud to welcome Dave Hopper, General Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, and Secretary of the National Union of Miners (North East Area), which he represents on the National Executive Committee of the NUM.

Dave has been involved all his life in mining, he began as a coal miner before becoming active in the union. He played an active role in the Miners’ Strike in 1984/85 and witnessed the events at Orgreave on 18th June 1984.

He will speak about the impact of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike and explain the significance of the Durham Miners Gala.

The Durham Gala.

The first Gala was held on 12th August 1871 and was organised by the Durham Miners. It is the largest annual organised gathering of workers in Europe. Miners from various National Mineworkers Union branches march behind their lodge or village banners and their colliery brass bands. Over 100, 000 can take part in the event, it has survived the virtual demise of the coal industry and goes from strength to strength.

The focal point is at the County Hotel at Old Elvet in Durham, where various processions of workers converge before heading to the Racecourse for speeches and a festival for all the family.

WAPC Banner Durham 2102

Women Against Pit Closures banner – one of many colourful banners at Durham Miner’s Gala

The Gala is a festive, colourful expression of union, socialist and working class traditions and takes place each year on the second Saturday of July in Durham. The Durham Gala at its core is about the expression of identity of mining communities, its resplendent and unique banners represent and display the heart and soul of the nobility of union membership and social and community solidarity.

Although the mines may be almost silent now and the traditions deemed old fashioned, the proud spirit and history of the mining communities remain and in the Durham Gala are displayed in all their resilient and powerful glory as a beacon of hope and belief in a fairer and equal and just society for all.

Dave Hopper will speak during “Miners Day” at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Thursday 31st July at the Firkin Crane in Shandon.

Visit http://www.durhamminers.org

British Miners’ Strike to feature at Cork Mother Jones Festival

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is privileged to welcome Betty Cook and Anne Scargill to Cork.

Betty Cook

Betty Cook

Betty Cook was born in 1938 in Doncaster. Having trained as a nurse, Betty married and raised her family of three children and watched from home as the coal strikes of 1972 to 1974 took place. She was determined not to look on from the sidelines when the next strike began.

Anne Scargill

Anne Scargill

Anne was born in 1941, in 1961 she married Arthur Scargill and they have one daughter. She has worked at the local Co-operative Retail Society all her life. The Miners’ Strike and its aftermath was a life changing experience for both.

In March 1984, the National Coal Board announced that it was going to close 20 coal mines with the loss of almost 20,000 mining jobs. The leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, Arthur Scargill claimed this was part of a master plan by the Thatcher government to close many more pits and destroy the Mineworkers Union. (The release of the British Cabinet papers reported in the BBC earlier this year demonstrates that he was correct as there were secret plans to close 75 pits over 3 years with the loss of 64,000 jobs). Sporadic strikes broke out immediately and by the 12th March, Arthur Scargill had declared a national strike. Betty and Anne were founder members of the Barnsley Miners Wives Action Group. They became key members of the community support groups which eventually led to the formation of Woman against Pit Closures in Barnsley.

Betty and Anne Scargill had become friends and both were instrumental in the formation of Women Against Pit Closures.   WAPC played a major role in the period of the strike and has remained active to the present day. Many women including Betty and Anne initially organised the community kitchens, which fed whole communities during the strike. Soon they took on a more active role in the strike and joined in the pickets and protests and marches. In August 1984, over 20,000 women marched in support of the strike in London. Out of this activism emerged a new movement which brought together and empowered working class woman from mining communities all over the country and which has survived the closure of the pits. Following the miners defeat, life was never the same for many of the women activists as they had experienced a new sense of individual freedom, of personal strength and had found their voices as they addressed packed meetings up and down the country during the strike.

Betty and Anne have campaigned actively over many years. They attended the World Social Forum in Mumbai and were shocked at the poverty they witnessed when they walked the streets. During a renewed wave of pit closures in 1993 they helped with the pit camps, most notably Grimethorpe which were organized along the lines of the Greenham Womens Peace camp. Anne spent 5 days underground as part of a protest in 1993 at the Parkside Colliery in Lancashire. They have campaigned in support of the Wapping print workers. Both helped provide work wear for miners’, medicines and toiletries for Cuban miners and their trip to Cuba became the subject of a Channel 4 documentary. In 2012, a new banner from the Woman against Pit Closures featured in the Durham Miners Gala, accompanied by Betty Cook and Anne Scargill.

In Cork,  Betty and Anne will discuss their experiences of 1984 and 1985 and the impact on their local communities at the festival, they will give their recollections of an event that changed the face of Britain and changed them also forever. The British Miners’ strike and its aftermath may yet prove to have been a watershed moment in the history of British trade unionism, organised labour and the solidarity of the working class. All are welcome.

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival wins major award from Irish Hotel Federation

One of Cork’s newest festivals has just won a prestigious national award. Just three years in existence the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, based at Shandon has been awarded one of the Irish Hotel Federation top Gathering awards in the Best Arts and Culture category.

 

The announcement was made at the Irish Hotel Federation Conference at the Knightbrook Hotel in Trim Co Meath on Tuesday morning.

 

The festival founded in 2012 and designed to celebrate Cork born Mary Harris, who became known as “the most dangerous woman in America” for her trade union activities and her support for the miners and their families has already become an international event.

 

Jim Nolan accepted the IHF award on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee from Minister Michael Ring at a reception at the Hotels Conference and thanked the IHF for this practical demonstration of support for the event.

 

“We are absolutely thrilled with this award, it will really put historic Shandon and the Mother Jones festival on the map” stated Jim Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee. It is down to the amazing hard work of an outstanding voluntary committee”

 

“The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival is a unique and innovative event, which seeks out inspirational people who fight for social justice to come to our Shandon summer school

and tell their story” declared Mr. Nolan, “it has managed to attract huge interest from abroad, especially America”

 

“We are very much based in the community of Shandon and the festival prides itself on being free and open to everyone to come along and attend. We want to thank the local community, not least the local Maldron Hotel and the Firkin Crane Centre for providing practical support and venues and our sponsors SIPTU and Cork City Council for their encouragement which has enabled the event to grow and thrive.” reiterated Mr. Nolan.

 

The 2014 Festival will be held again from Thursday 29th July until 1st August at the Maldron Hotel and the Firkin Crane Centre in the heart of historic Shandon and will again feature a host of international and Irish speakers, concerts, lectures, workshops and music.

 

A full festival programme of events will be announced shortly and up to date details can be found on http://www.motherjonescork.com or contact Jim Nolan 086 1651356, or Ger O’Mahony at 086 3196063.

Anne Feeney for Cork Mother Jones Festival

AnneFeeney

Anne Feeney

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that renowned labour and union activist, folk musician and singer is also on her way to the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. Each year Anne organises a tour of Ireland and this year for the first time she will include the festival in Cork as part of her itinery.

Anne was born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania in 1951; she was deeply influenced by the Civil Rights movement and the anti Vietnam War movement. Her grandfather, William Patrick Feeney, was a mineworkers’ organizer who played his violin at labour and union rallies, and was also a key role model.

Her first public concert was at an anti-war rally in November 1969. Anne graduated from the Pittsburgh School of Law in 1978, and worked as a trial attorney for 12 years. She served as president of the Pittsburgh Musicians Union in 1997 and 1998.

She is a member of the IWW (Mother Jones was among the founders) and the American Federation of Musicians.

Since 1991, Anne has toured North America and many other countries to participate in labour rallies.

Her solo albums:

Look to the Left (1992)

Heartland (1994)

Have you been to jail for justice? (2001)

Union Maid (2003)

If I can’t dance (2006)

Dump the Bosses off your back (2008)

Enchanted Way (2010)

The track Union Maid on the 2003 Union Maid CD which was written by Woody Guthrie and sung by Anne was recorded at the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive, Illinois on October 9th 1994. She has recorded songs written by Ewan McColl, Peggy Seeger, Si Kahn, Tom Paxton as well as many of her own compositions.

Many consider that her rendering of the famous union song written by Florence Reese, Which Side Are You On? to be the definitive version!

Anne was once described by Utah Philips as “the best labour Singer in North America”. while her music has been recorded by many artists including Peter, Paul & Mary.

“Few women have taken Woody Guthrie’s path……but Anne Feeney has made a career of it.” Labour History Foundation.

Her business card proclaims her hell-raising activities and lists her business as folksinger and agitator.

Anne paid a visit to the Mother Jones plaque in Cork last year.

Anne paid a visit to the Mother Jones plaque in Cork last year.

Anne was diagnosed in August 2010 with small cell lung cancer, yet Anne has continued to tour and travel. She visited Cork briefly in 2013 to see the Mother Jones plaque and will now return for the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival from 29th July till 1st August.

Anne will play a joint concert with Si Kahn at 8.30 at the Firkin Crane Centre in Shandon on Thursday evening 31st July.

She is leading a Labour History Tour to Ireland which will take in the Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Cork.

For details of how to join the tour contact Innisfree Tours or anne@annefeeney.com or visit Anne’s website on http://www.annefeeney.com.